For this month’s series, we’re providing a little bit of perspective on the hectic events of 2013. As we’ve left Enhanced Campaigns pretty well covered this year, this week we’ll be dedicating our time to some of the other (non-Enhanced Campaigns) initiatives, tactics, strategies, and features that we used to excel in 2013 here at PPC Hero.

After Eric’s coverage of AdWords alternatives, and Kayla’s thorough review of CRO lessons learned, we’ve come to the next portion of our 2013 retrospective: the inevitable transition that you simply have to get used to – Universal Analytics.

What is Universal Analytics?

If you haven’t heard, Universal Analytics is something of a big deal. We don’t need to beat it into the ground. There are volumes of blog posts and informative sources on this topic, including our very own PPC Hero coverage. Ask your Google reps. Ask your PPC Heroes! No matter where you turn, there is a LOT of coverage about exactly what Universal Analytics is and what it means for the future of data collection and analysis!

How it’s great: What are the easy uses of it?

There are many simple adaptations for collecting additional data (see Custom Metrics and Custom Dimensions).  You can also make easy alterations to how your data gets categorized once it’s in the Analytics database, such as grouping search engine referrals as organic or opting out of referrals based on domain.

How it’s amazing: What are the top benefits of Universal Analytics?

Integration! My favorite feature integrates external CRM data with your customized settings and BOOM– these variables actually appear in your Analytics interface! But the operative word here is integrate, friends. Doing this requires cooperation between your Analytics account and your CRM developer (which may vary in difficulty, if you use a 3rd party platform or have built your own). Additionally, your User IDs can now be tracked across devices, which means you can follow known users (via sign ups, for example) as they interact with your site over time. Once again, this involves a thorough understanding of how your data is collected and stored in your database, but the Google Analytics team is ready and happy to work with you! While this is not nearly as simple as it might seem upon reading this paragraph, it is absolutely worth the time it will take to build out.

What you need to know/do:

Options for implementing:

1)   The Upgrade Center : This cannot be undone. Once you get the ball rolling with switching to Universal tracking, it’s going. While this may not be a bad thing, it’s certainly a decision to be made very intentionally.  This new code will replace your old code, as Google promised it will not lose your precious data. Having said this, it is imperative that you verify that your account is a good candidate for UA at this time. Please limitations to what UA can track :

Universal Analytics warnings

2)   Segmented property. You can create a new property in your existing analytics account. This will require placing an entirely separate code for the new property, but if you’re a smarty pants using GTM it should be a fairly flawless step. Here you can practice implementing the new features of UA, but without interfering in your regular account. Obviously, if you simply switch to this property altogether, you won’t have your historical data. However, if you want to get your feet wet in your account before going through the Upgrade Center, this is a great alternative.

Developer on hand:

If you are not the webmaster for your site, keep him or her close when you embark on this process. With lots of new codes or even minor tweaks, you’ll need to have regular access to your site and its codes, including the creation of new scripts or snippets. There are countless opportunities for you to rework the data you track with Universal Analytics and your webmaster will make it a LOT easier. When pulling back-end data into your account, you’ll need your developer to help identify where/how your User ID info is stored.  You’ll also need to be able to place codes in the various components of your site, such a video, a survey form, or a chat box. As you come to identify the ways in which you want to track your users and their engagement with your site, your developing team will need to be looped in for the implementation process.

Forecast for 2014: IT’S COMING FOR YOU.

Seriously, though, it’s coming for you and your account. While the gang at Google aren’t telling us exactly when this is happening, it will happen. Our suggestion? Get going on it. Whether you simply begin your journey into the sea of coverage on the topic, create a  separate trial property, or jump in with both feet, Universal Analytics will continue to be a topic well into 2014!